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The Extraterritorial Dimensions of Biofuel Policies and the Politics of Scale: Live and Let Die?

Bastos Lima, Mairon G, Joyeeta Gupta. 2014. The Extraterritorial Dimensions of Biofuel Policies and the Politics of Scale: Live and Let Die?. Third World Quarterly, 35(3): 392-410.

Abstract

Despite criticism, global biofuel production continues to rise, using primarily food crops. Between 2001 and 2012 it increased nearly six-fold, driven primarily by domestic policies, yet raising strong international concerns, eg over impacts on global food prices. Nevertheless, little international biofuel governance has emerged. This article examines the various extraterritorial dimensions of domestic biofuel policies and investigates why international biofuel governance has remained vague, despite its controversial nature. It uses the politics of scale to analyse why countries may wish to frame it as a global or domestic issue. Three extraterritorial dimensions are identified: global environmental impacts, global socioeconomic impacts, and attempts at extraterritorial control over biofuel production abroad. While major producers have successfully avoided liability for impacts by preventing the scaling up of much biofuel governance to the international level, major importers have tried to fill perceived governance gaps using policies aimed at extraterritorial control. We show that both the rise of nationally oriented development policies with extraterritorial impacts and of unilateral sustainability rule making primarily affect weaker countries, making global inequalities more pronounced. It is essential that adaptation governance take into account both environmental and global socioeconomic changes, such as higher agricultural commodity prices.

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